Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees marked the fifth anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar on August 25 as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for justice on what Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this year concluded were genocidal crimes against the minority Muslim community.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees gathered in the Cox’s Bazar district of neighboring Bangladesh to commemorate what they refer to as Genocide Remembrance Day. Speakers at the event demanded an end to the persecution of their community inside Myanmar so they can return to their homeland.
The USCIRF states that on August 25, 2017, Myanmar’s military junta launched a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya community and other Muslims in the state of Rakhine. It also noted that according to the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which collects evidence of international law violations in Myanmar, the military junta engaged in indiscriminate killings of Rohingya civilians, widespread rape, and arbitrary detentions.
The pogrom forced more than 1 million members of the beleaguered community to seek refuge in Bangladesh and neighboring countries, including some 740,000 people who fled starting in August 2017 amid a “clearance operation” launched against the Rohingya in the aftermath of an attack on the military by a rebel group.
On August 25, 2022, the UK announced tighter sanctions against businesses supporting Myanmar’s brutal military regime, the Tatmadaw. The regime deposed the country’s elected civilian leader, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, in a military coup on February 1, 2021.
“We urge the United States government to actively support multilateral efforts to hold the Tatmadaw and other Burmese officials accountable through the international legal system,” said USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck.
Myanmar’s military rulers are the subject of three legal cases in the international justice system to hold them accountable for their crimes, the USCIRF noted.
One case was brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by The Gambia in 2019, alleging that Myanmar’s military junta violated the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In February 2022, the National Unity Government, Myanmar’s shadow government that opposes military rule, accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ. And in July, the ICJ rejected the military junta’s objections against the case brought by The Gambia, paving the way for the court to proceed with the case.
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